Saturday, December 13, 2014

Anti-Americanism on the left

I don't mean anti-Americanism in the death-to-America sense practiced by the governments of Iran and North Korea. Instead, it's just a tacit assumption by many liberals that the foreign policy of the United States is the biggest problem in the world. Noam Chomsky's writing reflects that assumption explicitly, as do many contributors to Alternet. Closer to home, we have this from Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll:

We’re still killing a bunch of people in the Middle East, participating in a war we have no hope of winning. It’s not even clear what winning would look like. We are using our military almost because we can, because it gets restless without a mission to attack somebody. It is part of our national narrative to deny that this is true.

Presumably Carroll is referring to the war against ISIS. Actually, there's a very good chance that the US and its allies can defeat ISIS. Winning would look like this: first, contain ISIS and prevent it from taking any more territory, and then roll it back using Iraqi and Kurdish troops on the ground. If we can't defeat ISIS, it will threaten not only Iraq and the Kurds but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which is a member of NATO. (Iran can take care of itself.) With money from looted banks and captured oil fields, ISIS can also afford to plot attacks on the US and our allies in Europe. Defeating ISIS seems like a sensible---even a necessary---"mission" to me.

Unlike his carefully observed columns about his cats, Carroll doesn't deign to deal in such details when writing about foreign policy. He simply assumes that the US is the bad guy that is needlessly creating fear in the American people:

People are fearful. One of the reasons they’re fearful is that their government is spying on them all the time. Even though most people shrug off privacy concerns — “I’m not doing anything wrong; why should I care?” — the paranoid reality of the surveillance state is all around them. We’re afraid because they’re making us afraid, and when we’re afraid, we agree to all sorts of silly things.

This is apparently a reference to the NSA's surveillance program, which is not in fact "spying on them[us] all the time." The reality: the NSA scoops up all electronic communications to create a data base from which it can occasionally find actual terrorists and their enablers. Carroll is implying that the government is actually reading our email messages and listening to our phone calls and "spying" on us because that's just what the government does, which is now a standard leftist trope.

Michael Moore is a good example of the Alternet left in the US:

An ignorant American public was manipulated with fear and lies to start and maintain the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars---and that manipulation continues today in order to justify things like the mass spying by the NSA on our entire citizenry. When the Cold War ended (25 years ago today in Berlin), the defense industry went berserk with worry that their salad days were over. A new enemy was needed. Arab terrorists fit the bill perfectly! Not only has the defense industry since thrived, a whole new fake industry has arisen---the Homeland Security behemoth. As our infrastructure, our freedoms and our middle class vaporize, billions are spent as a grossly out-of-proportion response to a few shitty disasters.

This is the standard leftist line on Islamic terrorism: We're supposed to simply shrug off attacks like 9/11 and those in London and Madrid. Any serious attempt to defend ourselves is seen as a "out of proportion" to the threat. No political leadership in the world would last long with that rather blase approach to protecting its citizens.

Steve Jones, former editor of the Bay Guardian, made a similar argument in 2010:

You want a death toll in the millions to avenge an attack that killed 3,000 or because you're scared that someone might try to blow up an airplane or subway train every few years? You're insane! Have you no sense of proportion? Do you really think we'll just kill them all and live happily ever after? That's a children's fairy tale.

There's a sense of proportion for you: What's a few airplanes and trains blown up every now and then?

The simple truth is that many liberals and progressives---progressives are liberals who think they're morally superior to other liberals---think that radical Islamists pose no serious threat to the country or our allies around the world.

This is why some liberals shrugged off the demise of The New Republic magazine---because it took our national security problems seriously and didn't think that the US was always the bad guy. The Alternet: "The New Republic was a vicious imperial mouthpiece." And the Daily Kos: The New Republic was a "shambling animated shitpile."

And here in Progressive Land, Randy Shaw sneered: "TNR influence was artificially inflated by its New York City home and the social connections of its its[sic] overwhelmingly white male writing staff." White guy Shaw sees racism everywhere. If only the New Republic had been published in San Francisco using all those brilliant people of color that write for Beyond Chron!

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